If you asked your Magic 8 Ball who the No. 1 pick in the next draft would be, the answer would come up “Reply hazy, try again.”
DraftExpress has UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad as the top pick as of right now, but after the NCAA was done enforcing its archaic and inconsistent sense of justice, he went out in his debut Monday night and looked overwhelmed against Georgetown. Well, what he really looked like is a 19-year-old in his first college game against an athletic opponent — it’s an adjustment. His defense wasn’t impressive. He still had 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but he did not stand out. As Rob Dauster said at our sister CollegeBasketballTalk blog, it’s too early to rush to judgment.
But one thing that is clear is that there is no clear-cut No. 1 overall pick as of right now. After a few drafts where there wasn’t any real debate about the top spot in the draft (Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving were pretty clear choices) there could be some debate this year.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports spoke to some scouts and GMs about this draft and heard teams are interested to see how players develop over the course of this college season.
Muhammad has constructed his pre-college reputation on how fiercely he competes on the floor, how he uses that explosive and chiseled 6-foot-6 frame inside and outside. “His greatest talent is his competitiveness,” said an assistant GM who spent several days watching Muhammad in national team practices at the Hoop Summit in the spring. “He’s relentless. But does he have the skill level to be the No. 1 pick? I still need to see that out of him….”
As one assistant GM of a likely lottery team said, “Whoever is the No. 1 pick, he’ll play himself into it this year. I don’t think it will ever be a clear-cut choice.”
As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”
DraftExpress’ top five rounds out with Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel at No. 2, Indiana’s Cody Zeller at No. 3, international prospect Rudy Gobert at No. 4 and North Carolina’s James McAdoo at No. 5. (I saw McAdoo play in person last week and there is a lot of potential there, fantastic athlete and showed a little midrange game, but I wanted to see more aggressiveness.)
Muhammad has played one game and could blossom, he sounds a lot like a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type of hustle player. A guy whose drive turns his good skills into something more. But we will have to see about him, and Noel and the rest.
This should be fun, because for once the top of the draft board does not seem like a foregone conclusion.